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Cricket Tour – Dram Tasting Second Edition | Blog # 76

So here I am again on the annual Glenmore Cricket Club tour of Vancouver and Victoria. 

Sneaking along a delicious bottle of unique whisky adds a touch of the civilized to the mostly rudimentary fun of beer, cricket, darts more beer and really good mates.

This time around the hotel in question is right in the heart of English Bay in Vancouver and I got to use a glass tumbler instead of last years plastic cup. Way to step it up!!

The whisky of choice that I grabbed out of my basement before jumping into the car with 3 other guys and heading off on this years cricketing adventure is a 16 year old Craigellachie from A.D. Rattray.

Bottled at the cask strength of 54.7% in a first fill ex-bourbon barrel, there were only 320 bottles available of which a mere 60 came to Canada. This whisky was distilled in 1989 on the 9th of October and bottled in 2006 on the 10th of August, the second year that A.D. Rattray whiskies were available in Alberta. Cask number 3881 and 16 Years Old.

It was apt that this particular whisky was chosen as my last day on tour was spent at the 3 Valley Gap resort a short distance away from Craigellachie, British Columbia. made famous by the driving of the last spike in the Trans Canada Railway. It was named after the president of CPR Sir George Stephen who traveled to Britain to source desperately needed funds. After success Sir Stephen telegraphed a message back “stand fast Craigellachie”.

The CPR heritage train food and beverage manager has at times thought about an exclusive cask of Craigellachie and one day there may well be a CPR bottling. Something to look out for if you are a history buff or just love trains and the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.

So onto the whisky tasted in a Best Western Sands rock glass while overlooking English Bay.

Colour: Burnished gold
Nose: Plenty of oomph there even in a big open tumbler, waxy spring blossom honeycomb.
Palate: Far more savory on the palate with herbaceous notes of fresh soft hay bail tinged with an undercurrent of sourdough garlic bread fresh out of the oven. Really interesting whisky and quite different to other Craigellachie casks that I have tried.
Finish: Long and even more savory leaving a lingering whiff of garlic which is really cool. Vampires beware of this dram. Through it all the sweet little slab of honeycomb weaves its way adding a great layer of complexity.

If you can find this dram I would suggest nabbing one. Try Chateau Louis in Edmonton who have a remarkable library of A.D. Rattray bottlings.

Just when I thought I had a handle on whisky I get this little beaut that expands my mind yet again.

A fabulous dram to take on tour and one that some of the cricket club boys readily agreed was worth bringing.

Until next year when I pop another cork on the cricket road trip have fun drinking great whisky under any circumstances.

Cheers!

4 Cities in 5 days, a Whisky Journey | Blog #59

January is a whisky month! Even more than the ramp up towards Christmas and the frenzy of shoppers grabbing special bottles for their loved ones, January is one of the busiest whisky months of the year.

If you are getting into whisky and want to experience an opportunity to try some really amazing drams and get some great insights from really knowledgeable people, then attending a whisky festival is your next step.

This past week has been a blur and not because of the number of delicious drams imbibed. Starting on the 13th of January I made the trek to the Red Deer Golf and Country club for the MS Society Whisky Festival. The inaugural year for this festival it was a treat for the 90 odd people that came along and had quality one on one time with a host of excellent whiskies.

Being able to meander around the room and try whiskies that you have never seen or always wondered about is golden if you are on the journey to greater whisky discovery.

The pass around nibblies were fantastic and one lucky winner took home a whole table of great spirit donations in the raffle to raise money for a great cause. Big thanks to Blair at Liquor Crossing for partnering with the MS Society to get the event up and running.

January 14th and on to Edmonton for the MS Society Whisky festival held at the Delta South.

A much bigger show now that it has been going for a number of years. A show of this size needs a careful plan if you want to get around and try a good number of drams. The temptation is always to be drawn to things you love and drink often.

I would urge you though to adopt the opposite plan and only try whiskies that you have never had before.

This is really what these festivals are all about. The chance to try new and amazing whiskies and maybe just find something that will become your new favorite. Edmonton had it all, luxury Lexus cars sprinkled through the ballroom, Bagpipes and Scottish Dancers entertaining the whisky loving crowd and a great array of Silent Auction items to tempt everyone into bidding for something awesome for their collection.

I think I can speak for everyone there that we loved every minute of it and were completely spent after satisfying the educational yearning from the appreciative crowd. A big thanks to Dave and Steve at Vines of Riverbend for initiating and working with the MS Society to bring this festival to Edmonton and make it such a vibrant growing event every year.

January 15th and back to Calgary for the longest running independent whisky festival in Alberta.

The MS Society again the supported charity. Held at the Jack Singer Concert hall lobby, it is a grand venue with two levels of whisky tables, chandelier lit high ceilings and a very relaxed feel. Great food and a vast array of silent auction items are highlights along with a well attended VIP masterclass.

The Calgary festival was the brainchild of one of the most well known whisky personalities in Calgary, Andrew Ferguson from Kensington Wine Market. Andrew was integral in making the first Calgary festival a reality and subsequently Edmonton and now Red Deer festivals have spawned giving much more opportunity for whisky enthusiasts to try great new offerings every year from Southern to Northern Alberta.

Regardless of which city you live in you owe it to yourself to get along if you haven’t already to the 2016 festivals.

One day to catch my breath on Friday before an early start Saturday morning the 17th January for the flight to Victoria.

In it’s 10th year, Victoria is one of my favorite festivals and by far the longest running independent festival in Western Canada. Started by the Victoria Single Malt club and run ably by Lawrence, Iain, Jonathan and his team of volunteers, it is the most well run and amazing festival I have had the privilege to be a part of.

Missing the first year I have, except for a hiatus in 2014, been a regular presenter at the Victoria festival with this being my 8th time in the beautiful capital of British Columbia behind a whisky table. It was great to be back again this year and see a lot of new and familiar faces. Such a knowledgeable group of attendees who try each whisky with interest and enthusiasm. If you like to be educated then the massive array of masterclasses offers some schooling in everything from specific distilleries to Chocolate and Whisky pairings. Held at the magnificent Grand Pacific Hotel next to the Parliament building on the harbor it is an inspiring place to experience whisky nirvana.

If you do get a coveted ticket and attend some masterclasses, careful pacing is required to get through the entire day and still be getting something from your abused taste buds at the 10:00pm close on Saturday night.

Shared between two rooms with a sumptuous room of delicious food snuggled in between you can do a circuit regroup with some whisky soaking nibblies and then get back at it in the next room. Rinse and repeat as often as you can and then collapse back in your beautifully appointed room overlooking gorgeous Victoria Harbor.

This year was a special treat for me as I was able to showcase the first edition Scotch Whisky Calendar to entice hopefully some new recruits to order the second edition this year. I was also pouring whiskies that were part of the 2014 mix. I was able to meet many people at all 4 festivals that were part of the lucky 400 that secured themselves a 1st edition last year. The joy in their faces and the fun banter and feedback made all the hard work so worthwhile.

Gosh, I love my life – I can’t even really say that it’s a job.

I will post a full rundown of the winning drams and feedback on the 1st edition in the beginning of March when we close the “rate your favorite 3” competition and announce the winning entry.

As I sit here in the Grand Pacific lounge looking out at the bobbing float planes and resident Grand Pacific ducks, I feel so completely blessed to be able to rub shoulders with so many amazing people during this past week and to pass on my passion and love of this wonderful drink.

I urge you to make one of these festivals part of your plans for January 2016. I look forward to sharing an amazing dram with you and getting to know you as a regular. See photos from all the shows below…

Please jump in with a comment about your festival experience in 2015. I look forward to getting into a very special whisky next week.

Cheers!

Red Deer Festival Photos

Edmonton Festival Photos

Calgary Festival Photos

Victoria Festival Photos

It’s Just Not Cricket! | Blog #18

This week finds me basking in sunny Victoria on the annual Glenmore Cricket Club tour to Vancouver and the island.

Not normally a whisky focused time for me, with beer flowing profusely, darts and billiards the order of the day at the Sticky Wicket after a hard fought game of cricket. This year I decided to pack something a little special to tempt those whisky lovers in the group.

1997 Cragganmore Octave from Duncan Taylor bottled at Cask Strength 53.6% and only 48 bottles for the lucky few all exclusively available at J. Webb Wine Merchants (author’s note: this whisky is now sold out). Cask number 426431 – 16 years old from this well known Speyside distillery.

The concept of Octave’s is not new and many bottlers and distilleries have been playing with smaller barrels for decades. Smaller barrels create a far bigger impact on the whisky with a much bigger barrel surface area to whisky ratio. For their Octave range Duncan Taylor cooper up only sherry casks and this has a big impact on the whisky in a relatively short period of time.

Sherry casks have become much rarer with Sherry sales dwindling over the past 100+ years and the popularity of Single Malts aged in those barrels soaring. By breaking larger barrels up and coopering them into octaves Duncan Taylor is able to create lovely sherry cask affected expressions of many different distilleries and styles. Each Octave is a completely unique whisky and with only such a small haul for whisky lovers to purchase they don’t last long on store shelves.

Tasted after a Thornbridge Wild Swan cleanser in my hotel room in Victoria.

Instead of one of my many whisky glasses this dram was tasted in an individually wrapped plastic cup (the best kind).

I didn’t bother doing a water comparison. This is a no fuss quick take on this yummy whisky without any bells and whistles.

Nose: Even in the tall plastic cup the sherry absolutely bursts forth promising rich fruitcake and spice with not a hint of sulphur anywhere.

Taste: at 53.6% it hits the palate softly with lovely dried fruits and a touch of glace cherry.

Finish: Lingering with dry balanced tannins, I’m sure that a little water would do something good to this whisky but I have to head off shortly for a round of golf 🙂

Lovely rich ruby colour which shows how much the octave impacts the whisky with only 6 extra months of aging.

Next week I’ll be back in civilization talking about one of my favorite Summer drams over the past 5 years.

Write in and let me know about your best down to earth whisky experience. Maybe it was on a camping trip or out fishing. Sometimes whisky drunk rough and ready can be an awesome experience.

Have a great week!

Cheers,

Jonathan